U.S. v. Francomano

Decision Date03 May 1977
Docket Number76-1232 and 76-1233,76-1229,Nos. 76-1228,s. 76-1228
Citation554 F.2d 483
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Eduardo Jose FRANCOMANO et al., Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Astrid Castro Franceschi, Guaynabo, P. R., by appointment of the court and Jose Enrique Amadeo, Rio Piedras, P. R., by appointment of the court, for Eduardo Jose Francomano and Daniel Jose Scodes, appellants.

Angel M. Castillo Rodriguez, Hato Rey, P. R., by appointment of the Court, for Fernando Arias Roghuett, appellant.

Jose M. Rocafort Bustelo, Santurce, P. R., by appointment of the court, on brief for Mario A. M. Fassani Donaso, appellant.

Jose A. Quiles, Asst. U. S. Atty., San Juan, P. R., with whom Julio Morales Sanchez, U. S. Atty., San Juan, P. R., was on brief, for appellee.

Before COFFIN, Chief Judge, CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge, and VAN OOSTERHOUT, * Senior Circuit Judge.

VAN OOSTERHOUT, Senior Circuit Judge.

Defendants Eduardo Jose Francomano, Mario A. M. Fassani Donoso, Daniel Jose Scodes and Fernando Arias Roghuett have each taken a timely appeal from their conviction by a jury upon an indictment charging them and Hugh MacQueen Boord, Joanne Mentala, and Walter Edwin Martian with violation of 21 U.S.C. § 963, charging that on or about July 22, 1975, in the District of Puerto Rico and elsewhere, defendants, aiding and abetting each other, knowingly and intentionally did attempt to import into the United States from a place outside thereof approximately fifty pounds of marihuana, a Schedule I controlled substance.

Defendants Boord and Martian were jointly tried with the defendants whose appeals are now before us. Martian has failed to perfect his appeal and his appeal has been dismissed by this court. The appeal of Boord, the captain and owner of the vessel, is not now before this panel. The case of Joanne Mentala was continued by reason of the illness of her counsel. The defendants, whose appeals are now directly before us, will generally be referred to hereinafter as appellants. Appellants Fernando Arias Roghuett and Mario A. M. Fassani Donoso were each sentenced to two years imprisonment. Eduardo Jose Francomano was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, and Daniel Jose Scodes was sentenced to one year and a day imprisonment. Required two year parole terms were imposed on each defendant.

A joint brief was filed on behalf of Scodes and Francomano. A joint brief was likewise filed on behalf of Fassani Donoso and Arias Roghuett.

Each appellant filed motions for acquittal at the close of the Government's case and again at the close of all the evidence. Such motions raised the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions. Such motions were overruled and all appellants seek a reversal upon the basis that the evidence is not sufficient to support a conviction. For reasons hereinafter stated, we hold the court erred in denying the motions for acquittal, reverse the judgments of conviction, and remand.

Other issues have been raised by the defendants but since our holding on the foregoing issue is dispositive of these appeals, no consideration of such issues is required to dispose of the appeals.

We will briefly summarize some of the background facts. The United States Coast Guard cutter Diligence, with drug enforcement officers aboard, on July 22, 1975, was patrolling the Mona Passage area, an international waterway. A helicopter assigned to the cutter observed the ship Double Eagle traveling about twenty miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. The helicopter's occupants observed some packages floating in the water some twenty feet behind the Double Eagle which they first thought to be garbage. Upon descending and coming closer to the ship, they observed five small packages wrapped in plastic bags and a box-like package wrapped in burlap about two feet long and one foot wide floating in the water in the vicinity of the Double Eagle. The helicopter landed in the water and retrieved the packages and box. As a result of a field examination, they determined the parcels contained marihuana. The packages were produced and introduced at the trial. A qualified chemist testified that the contents were in fact marihuana.

The helicopter remained in radio contact with the cutter, reporting its findings. Pursuant to directions from the cutter, by writing on a blackboard, it advised the occupants of the Double Eagle to prepare for the landing of a search party. Shortly thereafter, the search party from the cutter arrived and boarded the ship. They encountered no resistance. The search revealed no marihuana on board. The seven occupants of the ship were arrested and taken to the Government cutter and then to Puerto Rico.

There was evidence that there were no other ships or planes in the area. The Government contends that a chart lying open in the steering compartment showed marks which indicated the Double Eagle was headed for Puerto Rico. Such map was seized and offered in evidence.

We will assume for the purpose of the present appeals, without so deciding, that there is adequate evidentiary support for a finding that the marihuana retrieved by the helicopter came from the Double Eagle and that the Double Eagle was headed for Puerto Rico.

The crucial issue presented by these appeals is whether there is evidence to support a jury finding that appellants knowingly and intentionally either acted as principals or aided and abetted principals in attempting to import marihuana into the United States.

Twenty-one U.S.C. § 963 reads:

Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this subchapter is punishable by imprisonment or fine or both which may not exceed the maximum punishment prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.

Twenty-one U.S.C. § 952, subject to certain exceptions not here relevant, provides:

It shall be unlawful . . . to import into the United States from any place outside thereof, any controlled substance in schedule I or II of subchapter I of this chapter, . . .

Marihuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. 21 U.S.C. § 812(c), Schedule I, (c)(10).

This circuit and federal courts generally have rejected the rule contended for by the defendants to the effect that where the Government's evidence is circumstantial it must be such as to exclude every hypothesis other than that of guilt. Dirring v. United States, 328 F.2d 512, 515 (1st Cir. 1964); Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 139-40, 75 S.Ct. 127, 99 L.Ed. 150 (1954). The proper test to be applied when the evidence is largely circumstantial is "whether the total evidence, including reasonable inferences, when put together is sufficient to warrant a jury to conclude that defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Dirring v. United States, supra at 515. Such rule is reaffirmed in United States v. Concepcion Cueto, 515 F.2d 160, 162 (1st Cir. 1975).

The test for determining whether a party is an aider or abetter is stated by the Supreme Court in Nye & Nissen v. United States, 336 U.S. 613, 619, 69 S.Ct. 766, 769, 93 L.Ed. 919 (1949), as follows:

In order to aid and abet another to commit a crime it is necessary that a defendant "in some sort associate himself with the venture, that he participate in it as in something that he wishes to bring about, that he seek by his action to make it succeed." L. Hand, J., in United States v. Peoni, 100 F.2d 401, 402.

The Nye & Nissen standard just quoted has been applied in many federal cases. In Snyder v. United States, 448 F.2d 716, 718-19 (8th Cir. 1971), the court reversed a conviction after quoting from Nye & Nissen. The court stated:

By far the most important element is the sharing of the criminal intent of the principal, and this is concededly difficult to prove; nevertheless the Government must prove this sharing of criminal intent....

To continue reading

Request your trial
52 cases
  • U.S. v. Hensel, s. 81-1538
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • January 25, 1983
    ...had embarked on voyage for any purpose other than pleasure and no indication of prior association with captain); United States v. Francomano, 554 F.2d 483 (1st Cir.1977) (conviction reversed where defendants worked on ship carrying drugs, but where there was no evidence that they knew drugs......
  • United States v. Maldonado-Peña
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 30, 2021
    ...that a crime was to be committed sufficient to establish aiding and abetting." Id. (alteration adopted) (quoting United States v. Francomano, 554 F.2d 483, 486 (1st Cir. 1977) ). However, these statements of black letter law related to the substantive charge of aiding and abetting won't hel......
  • U.S. v. Elkins, s. 84-1604
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • October 9, 1985
    ...of crew member's presence on ship throughout voyage and inferences of a close relationship with the captain); United States v. Francomano, 554 F.2d 483, 487 (1st Cir.1977) (reversed convictions of crew members because record was barren of evidence that they knew their ship was being used to......
  • U.S. v. Edwards
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • July 25, 1979
    ...328 F.2d 512, 515 (1st Cir.), Cert. denied, 377 U.S. 1003, 84 S.Ct. 1939, 12 L.Ed.2d 1052 (1964). See also United States v. Francomano, 554 F.2d 483, 486 (1st Cir. 1977); United States v. Conception Cueto, 515 F.2d 160, 162 (1st Cir. In order to prove possession of heroin under count one of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT